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Runtime Type Information#

Runtime Type Information (RTTI) is a mechanism best known from the C++ platform. It allows for types to be resolved and reflected dynamically at run time. Here we introduce several additions due to the nature of dynamic languages.

Declared types#

The runtime (instance of Context class) maintains a set of declared classes, interfaces and traits (types). The set is divided into two parts:

  • Application types contains implicitly declared types from referenced libraries.
  • User defined types are declared during the program (request) execution.

This allows for the application types to be declared just once, and to be shared by many Context instances. The set of types is keyed by the type's fully qualified name and points to the type's runtime information PhpTypeInfo.

Types added to the set of declared types can be both PHP types and .NET types. Every type in the set can be consumed by following PHP constructs:

  • new, instanceof
  • reflection API
  • static member access

Application-wide types#

The set of application-wide types is populated by runtime once during the load of a PHP assembly. The assembly specifies types contained in referenced assemblies during the PHP assembly compilation. Types being listed has to be annotated with [PhpTypeAttribute] attribute. By default, these are all the PHP built-in classes and interfaces like stdClass.

User-defined types#

The runtime type resolution mechanism needs the set of additional types declared during the program execution. The set of user-defined types is bound to an instance of Context. A type is added to the set in two possible ways:

  • PHP's class (or interface or trait) statement. The statement is actually translated by the compiler to the API call below.
  • Call to Context.DeclareType().


The runtime supports a simulation of autoloading. This means that every time the program requests a type that is not declared in the Context yet and the situation allows the autoloading, the autoload mechanism is invoked.

The autoload mechanism complies with autoloading in the PHP language, taking into account both the __autoload function and SPL autoloading. The mechanism itself is provided by the service IPhpAutoloadService, which is maintained by the instance of Context.

For seamless usability of PHP libraries within .NET programs, the autoload may implicitly perform include_once of containing script file when needed. This "implicit autoload" is enabled by default and is disabled if SPL autoload gets enabled.